Oak Park and River Forest junior forward Malachi Ross knows the Huskies are at their best when the play together at both ends of the floor.
“We are taught to ‘share the sugar’ offensively,” Ross said. “When we keep the ball moving and get everyone involved, we’re really tough to beat. We also believe in defense, defense, defense. We like to call it ‘Huskie Havoc.'”
The Huskies’ comprehensive effort during Friday’s Fenton Regional final resulted in a sweet 69-56 win over St. Patrick.
OPRF won its 10th straight game and third regional championship under head coach Matt Maloney.
“Defensively, we had one of our best efforts of the year,” Maloney said. “I couldn’t ask for more from my senior leaders Cam Gross and Jared Scott. They both elevated their game and put us on their back.”
Maloney also praised his assistant coaches for a strategic move defensively.
“Our coaches Chris Bracey and Bill Kluber were the architects behind our defensive adjustment on St. Pat’s ball screens that helped propel us to victory. It was a masterful call by the two of them.”
Gross led the way offensively with 23 points to go with five rebounds and two blocks, while Scott notched 18 points and 16 rebounds. Junior guard Isaiah Fuller scored 10 points for the Huskies and junior guard Sid Allgood chipped in nine points.
In a very intense first half, OPRF built a 33-24 lead at halftime. A free throw from Scott coupled with a 3-pointer by Fuller extended the Huskies’ advantage to 37-24 with 7:03 left in the third quarter. Ross scored four straight baskets in the third quarter as OPRF pushed out to a 17-point lead.
On defense, the Huskies were effective containing the Shamrocks’ Xavier Pinson and Laurence Merritt.
“Coach (Maloney) wanted us to switch us up in guarding Pinson, he’s a really good player,” Ross said. “We wanted to have fresh legs on him and make him take tough shots. He did hit a couple of long 3-pointers but other than that, our defense did a good job against him.
“Coach (Maloney) said if we limit (St. Patrick’s) touches, the game would be out of their hands. That’s exactly what we did. We did what we were supposed to do to win the game.”
Offensively, OPRF also played well by passing the basketball to open shooters and knocking down shots.
“We had some mismatches with their big guys,” Fuller said. “When they doubled down we had to get it out and hit big shots.
“We’ve had some games this season where we hadn’t been hitting those 3-pointers, but we’ve worked on it a lot in practice. We came out and hit those big shots tonight.”
OPRF (23-6) moves on to the Class 4A Proviso East Sectional semifinals where the Huskies face top-seeded Curie, the defending Class 4A champion, Tuesday March 7 (past deadline)